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Songs for singers by Sam Shalabi

by Archives January 29, 2008

Sam Shalabi has become known as one of Montreal’s most creative and eclectic musicians. Shalabi is constantly pushing the limits of free improvisation and experimental music with elements of psych, noise, post-rock, avant-jazz and some weird electronics and field recordings thrown in for good measure. So what far-out concept does Shalabi have for his new solo release Eid?
“There are actually songs on this album . . . people singing songs.” What a crazy idea! But before you start throwing around Cole Porter comparisons, it should be realized that this only scratches the surface. “I wanted to write music for singers,” Shalabi explains.
“I started from the idea of writing vocal songs and see where I could go with that. Usually I start with an abstract idea or concept and see if I can make a song out of it, but here I start with a song and see where it goes from there.”
And where it goes is far removed from what one might expect from a conventional pop song.
Along with his usual smorgasbord of sounds and styles, Shalabi has added a heavy Middle-Eastern influence to the mix since returning from Cairo, where he recently lived for nearly a year, and composed much of the material for Eid.
“I was influenced by all the different kinds of music and scenes there, traditional and non-traditional. I was inspired by how open the music is and all the different styles they let into their music.”
On Eid, Shalabi is able to reconcile sounds and styles that ordinarily have no business being in the same song. Drastically, but never awkwardly, a song can shift from traditional Eastern folk to spaghetti western to a face-melting guitar solo without anyone knowing exactly how, not even Shalabi.
“I like the idea of not knowing exactly what you’re doing and letting the music take you some place else. I don’t feel the need to just play one style. I prefer to try something that I haven’t done and see where it goes; that’s what makes it fun and interesting.”
So now that Shalabi is a big shot in the vocal music scene, it seems appropriate that the second song on the album is titled “Jessica Simpson.”
Though lyrically more of a Walter Benjamin-inspired cultural analysis than an homage to the confused Pizza Hut bombshell, Shalabi did reveal his connection with Simpson:
“We dated for several years.”

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